Tractor Trailer Accidents: Causes and Steps To Take

Red and White Truck Parked Near White Building


While all motor vehicle accidents can cause significant injury and loss, tractor trailer accidents are especially detrimental. 

Because they are much larger and heavier than most cars or vehicles on the road, the damages and injuries they can cause in an accident are usually more serious than those caused by other vehicles. 

If you have been involved in a tractor trailer accident and suffered injuries or damage to your property, you may be eligible to receive compensation. 

With the right legal assistance, you can make sure that your rights are preserved. Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-800-966-4995 for more information.

What Are the Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents?

While truck accidents are not an everyday occurrence in New York, truck driving is considered a dangerous job. 

On average, there are about 300 deaths and 6,000 hospitalizations a year due to accidents involving trucks in New York. 

While truck drivers are most at risk of tractor trailer accidents, other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians have also been injured in truck accidents. 

Tractor trailer accidents can be caused by the same reasons that accidents involving other vehicles occur. Here are two of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in New York. 

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car and truck accidents in New York, despite being one of the causes that can be easily avoided. 

Distracted driving is when a driver of a vehicle is preoccupied while on the road and is therefore not focused on staying safe and watching out for obstacles or other vehicles. 

Distraction is a factor in almost 25 percent of all crashes in New York, as well as in almost 11 percent of all crashes that result in fatalities. It was also determined to cause more than 18 percent of accidents involving large trucks. 

While there are many reasons a driver may be distracted or inattentive on the road, cell phone and electronic use are among the biggest reasons.

In 2019, almost 300 motor vehicle accidents in New York occurred solely because a driver was using their cell phone while driving. Other factors that may affect attentiveness are sleepiness, stress, and fatigue. 

Impaired Driving

Another significant cause of motor vehicle accidents is driving while impaired. While this mostly involves the use of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, it also includes the use of drugs or sedatives. 

In 2019, motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers resulted in more than 900 fatalities. That same year, drug-related vehicle accidents caused more than 200 deaths

While these statistics apply to all motor vehicle accidents and not just those involving trucks, truck drivers are susceptible to the same errors that other drivers are susceptible to, even though they are more thoroughly trained. 

But as aforementioned, there is a big difference between tractor trailer trucks and cars or other vehicles, especially when it comes to the extent of damages caused during crashes. 

While a tractor trailer accident can occur due to the same reasons a car accident occurs, some causes are more specific to tractor trailers and other trucks. 

Lack of Truck Maintenance

Trucks are typically owned by large companies that use them to transport goods and products. 

While truck drivers are responsible for staying attentive on the road, truck companies are responsible for making sure that vehicles are in good shape and safe to drive. 

Depending on the damage, accidents can occur if trucks are not regularly inspected for faulty parts and fixed before hitting the road. 

If the cause of an accident is determined to be a lack of truck maintenance, the truck company may be held responsible for the accident and the damages that resulted from it. 

Loading Errors

Unlike other vehicles, trucks are regularly loaded with heavy goods that they travel with for long distances. While a truck may seem too big and sturdy to become unbalanced, this can occur if products are not loaded properly into the truck. 

This can lead to an accident if the load is unbalanced enough to tip a truck over or cause the driver to lose control of its trajectory. 

Responsibility for accidents due to loading errors is typically attributed to the loading company or the group of people that loaded the items onto the truck. 

Negligent Hiring

As aforementioned, truck drivers are held to higher standards than other drivers and must have certain skills to drive a truck. 

When truck companies do not have enough drivers for their trucks, sometimes they resort to hiring any drivers, whether or not they are experienced in driving a truck. In such cases, the hiring company or managers are held responsible for injuries and damages incurred because of an accident. 

If you were involved in a truck accident in which the driver was not sufficiently trained to drive a truck, you might be able to file a claim against the hiring party. 

What To Do After a Tractor Trailer Accident

If you have ever been in an accident, you know that it can be difficult to think rationally in the first few moments after the fact. 

While being in an accident can be a scary and disorienting experience, you must follow certain steps if you are ever a victim of one. 

1. Safety First

After an accident, the most important thing is making sure that you are safe. You should check yourself for injuries and relocate to the side of the road where you will not be at risk of further collisions. 

As soon as you can, call the police and ambulance services. Even if you do not seem to be injured, you should be examined by a doctor or first responder to assess for any internal injuries or damages. Specifically, injuries to the next or back can seem minor in the moment but become more significant problems down the road. 

Calling for help and being examined not only helps coalition the situation and keep you safe, but it also provides documentation of the accident, which can later be used to prove liability. 

2. Document as Much as You Can

Although police and first responders will document the scene, you should also try your best to document what you can if you are physically able to after an accident. 

Something as simple as taking pictures, videos, or brief witness statements can make a difference in determining what caused the accident and filing a claim. Photographs of the damage to the vehicles, the roadway where the accident occurred, and any visible injuries can be extremely helpful in proving your case later on.

3. Seek Legal Assistance

Before you file a lawsuit or a claim for injuries you may have suffered during the accident, you should consider consulting with or hiring a lawyer to help you process and secure your claim. 

Because a variety of factors can contribute to a tractor trailer accident, you may not be able to determine their causes on your own. A good lawyer will have the resources and knowledge necessary to determine the cause of the accident.  

If you’re trying to find the right lawyer for you, Schwartzapfel Lawyers has experience in handling tractor trailer accident cases. Contact us at 1-800-966-4995 to get more information. 

4. Determining Liability

After an accident occurs, one of the most important steps you must take is determining why the accident occurred and whether or not it was a result of negligence. 

To file a lawsuit for compensation after you have been injured in a tractor trailer accident or any accident, you have to prove liability for the incident. 

A lawyer is best equipped to investigate the incident and decide who is responsible. To prove liability, your lawyer will have to establish that the actions of an opposing party or an individual were negligent. 

This is done by collecting evidence from the scene, witness statements, and speaking with potential experts. 

Understanding Your Rights  

Whether or not you suffered a serious injury during a tractor trailer accident, you are entitled to investigate the circumstances of an accident and file for compensation. 

Depending on the nature of the accident and the extent of the resulting damages, your eligibility for compensation may differ. 

Eligibility for Compensation

To receive compensation for injuries you suffered from an accident, the accident must have occurred due to the direct actions of an individual or party. 

You may not be eligible for compensation if: 

  • There is insufficient evidence to support that a specific party or individual was responsible for the accident. 
  • The incident resulted from an accident or error that had nothing to do with negligence. 
  • The accident occurred due solely to a mistake you made, whether or not you were the one driving the tractor trailer. 

On the other hand, you may be eligible to receive compensation if: 

  • Injuries incurred in an accident lead to permanent impairment or disability. 
  • The injury prevents you from going to work and therefore getting paid your regular wages. 
  • The injury requires extensive hospitalization and/or treatment. 
  • The accident leads to a significant amount of pain and suffering. 

Regardless of whether or not you think you are eligible for compensation, it is always best to consult with a competent lawyer who can help you understand your rights as well as what you are eligible to receive from a settlement. 

To determine how much compensation you are eligible to receive, a lawyer will assess all of the accident’s effects on you in terms of injuries and disruption to everyday life. 

Referred to as the value of the case, this assessment can determine how much you deserve to be compensated based on the negative impacts that the accident had. 

Filing a Lawsuit 

Once you have established liability for the accident and determined your eligibility for compensation, you can file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. 

Because filing a lawsuit can be an extensive and arduous process, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer to aid its progression. 

While you may think that you have the resources you need to file a claim successfully, a good lawyer will have enough experience to secure you the best results and best settlement. Also, you want to make sure you have a lawyer with the experience and financial resources to see your case through to a trial when it is necessary.

Lawyers are trained to: 

  • Gather all the evidence needed to prove liability against a responsible party. 
  • Identify and explain what rights and compensation you are eligible for. 
  • Negotiate settlements with opposing parties and prevent them from selling you short. 
  • Defend you in court and prepare you to testify if your case goes to trial. 

A lawyer’s legal knowledge can make all the difference in improving the outcomes of your claim. They take care of the legalities for you, so you can focus on treatment and rehabilitation from your injuries or losses. 


Tractor trailer accidents can be very damaging. If you or someone you know was injured in a tractor trailer accident, you will want to consider consulting with a lawyer to learn more about how you can receive compensation for your losses. 

While identifying the causes of tractor trailer accidents can help both drivers and employers prevent them in the future, victims of such accidents should not suffer the consequences of their negligence. 

Our lawyers at Schwartzapfel® Lawyers P.C. were able to secure a $2.1 million verdict for a recent victim of a tractor trailer collision as well as a $2.7 million dollar settlement for a client who was injured due to the negligence of a trucking company and its driver. 

We care about your case and strive to use our experience to fight for your rights. To learn more about what a lawyer can do for your tractor trailer accident case, you can book a free consultation with one of our lawyers. Reach us at 1-800-966-4995. 


Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Statistics: New York State Residents | NYC GOV  

Fact Sheets |  The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research

Distracted Driving | NHTSA 

Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C.
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